Located in northern Hyōgo Prefecture, Izushi (出石) is also known as the "Little Kyōto of Tajima". The small castle town - merged into Toyooka in 2005 - is famous for its nostalgic atmosphere, its traditional Japanese architecture, and its very own kind of buckwheat noodles: Izushi-soba.



In the Sengoku Period, Tajima Province (但馬国 Tajima no Kuni) was ruled by the Yamana clan. They were based in Konosumi Castle on top of Arikoyama (有子山). Toyotomi Hideyoshi, then a general of Oda Nobunaga, destroyed the castle in 1569. The Yamana rebuilt their castle on the south-east of the mountain, but in 1580 Arikoyama Castle too was taken by Hideyoshi.

After the Battle of Sekigahara (1600), Izushi was given to the Koide clan. In 1604, Koide Yoshihisa (小出吉英, 1587-1666), the second and fourth daimyō of the Izushi Domain, constructed a castle at the foot of Mount Ariko. Later, under the Ikkoku Ichijo Rei, the policy of only one castle per province, Izuchi Castle became the main castle of Tajima Province, while Arikoyama Castle which had always been difficult to access was abandoned.

The Koide ruled Izushi until 1697. After a brief reign of the Matsudaira (1697-1706), Izushi Domain was transferred to Sengoku Masaaki (仙石政明, 1659-1717) who had ruled Ueda Domain in Shinano. The Sengoku clan received a stipend of 30,000 koku and remained in Tajima until the Meiji Restoration. Thanks to the stability of the Tokugawa Period (1600-1867), Izushi grew into a thriving castle town. Its well-preserved architecture and historic city centre make the town worth a visit.


Nostalgia galore with Showa-era shops in the historic city centre.


The Shinkoro Clock Tower (辰鼓櫓) was built in 1871 as a drum tower to indicate the hours. The wooden tower rests on a stone base, the remains of the former Mihariyagura, a castle turret. In 1881, two mechanical clocks manufactured in the Netherlands were installed in the tower. It was restored in 2017 and is believed to be the oldest clock tower in Japan.


Built in 1901, the Eirakukan Kabuki Theater (永楽館) is the oldest kabuki theatre in the Kansai Region as well as the oldest kabuki theatre building in Japan still standing at its original location. It was closed in 1964 and reopened in 2008 after extensive restoration. There are regular performances of kabuki, rakugo, and other arts. There are guided tours where visitors can see the main runway, the original production signs, the area under the rotating stage and the dressing rooms.


A staircase with 157 stone steps lined with 32 beautiful red torii gates next to the Izushi Castle ruins. They lead up to Arikoyama-inari shrine halfway at the top of the mountain.


The wooden bridge across the moat was reconstructed in 1979.


The Nishisumiyagura, the turret at the western corner of the former honmaru (inner bailey) was reconstructed in 1979, too.

On 3 November, the Izuchi Castle Festival is held. The main event is a procession of some 120 people wearing historical costumes, 30 of them carrying decorated spears.

A famous speciality of Izushi is Izushi Sara Soba, buckwheat noodles that were introduced to Tajima by Sengoku Masaaki who hailed from the Shinano Region, also known as Shinshū (信州), modern-day Nagano Prefecture. Izushi-soba are Shinshū-style, hand-made and served on small plates.


Each person usually eats several plates of noodles that are dipped into a sauce made of dashi (Japanese soup stock made from fish and kelp) and a choice of spices (sesame, leek, etc.). Other variations are served with a raw egg, daikon oroshi (grated white radish), tororo (grated yam), chopped scallion, or wasabi (Japanese horseradish). After finishing the soba, it is customary to drink the sobayu (the hot water the soba were boiled in).


Plates of soba and various ingredients for the dipping broth.


By plane: from Ōsaka Itami Airport to Konotori Tajima Airport (about 40 minutes, two flights daily). Take a direct bus from Tajima Airport to Izushi.
By train:
  • From Tōkyō by bullet train (shinkansen) to Kyōto or Shin-Ōsaka, then by limited express train
  • From Kyōto by Kinosaki Limited Express (2 hours 15 minutes); getting off at Toyooka, Ebara or Yoka, then continue by Zentan Bus (30 minutes)
  • From Ōsaka by Konotori or Hamakaze Limited Express (2 hours 30 minutes), see above for transfer.
  • From Kobe (2 hours 30 minutes) and Himeji (1 hour 40 minutes) by Bantan Line and Hamakaze Limited Express, transfer as above.


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